Tour with the Barmy Army”    

 

Case Study; ON TOUR WITH THE BARMY ARMY

Introduction

The websites ‘World Atlas’, ‘Top End Sports’ and ‘Most Popular Sports’ declare Cricket as the second most popular sport in the world among fans. It sits behind Football with an estimated number of fans of 2.5 billion across Asia, the Commonwealth Countries and the United Kingdom (UK) (Sawe, 2018).

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The quadrennial International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Cricket World Cup is the biggest of all international cricket competitions and is considered to be the Holy Grail of cricket events among its fans (Beech, 2008). The Wikipedia article for the tournament calls it “one of the world’s most viewed sporting events and is considered the ‘flagship event of the international cricket calendar’ by the sport’s governing body, the ICC (“Cricket World Cup,” n.d.).

This and many other reasons have incentivized the development of sports fandoms to go from fan clubs to fully-fledged organizations with business models and different lucrative ventures (i.e. merchandising, travel packages, etc.) (Tyson, Jordan & Truly, 2016).

This paper will be reviewing the case study ‘On Tour With The Barmy Army: A Case Study In Sports Tourism’ specifically in relation to the different challenges that faced the sport tourism industry at the 2007 Cricket World Cup in the West Indies vis-à-vis the attendance of the Barmy Army, and other cricket tourists in general will be reviewed.

The market segmentation that the Barmy Army used for their potential customers, based on different characteristics, will also be reviewed and justified. Additionally, strategies that could be used in the future by tour operators to better cater for the needs of ‘tag-along partners’ who are less committed to the cricket features of a holiday will be recommended.

Finally, the paper will look at how the Barmy Army has evolved over time and the justification for recommending to a potential cricket tourist to go for an organized tour, the Barmy Army in particular, as opposed to booking independently will also be presented. A brief background to the Barmy Army will be presented next.

 

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The Barmy Army

The Barmy Army ‘The Original England Supporters Club’ in its origin was a small fan-collective that was founded in the mid-nineties (Beech, 2008). The term ‘Barmy Army’ is thus associated or rather used to refer to English cricket fans who would loyally support their team, enough to travel in large numbers overseas whenever the English team is playing (Beech, 2008). The term ‘Barmy’ is credited to the Australian media as its origin (Beech, 2008). It aroused from the fact that the supporters would support their team devotedly despite constant loses in different games (Beech, 2008). They are also notable for their solidarity with their team, their loud football-style chants and their true sense of community. The term ‘Army’ on the other hand stems from the fact that the supporters would be in the hundreds (Beech, 2008). It later evolved into an organization titled the ‘Barmy Army Organization’ that engages in lucrative economic activities such as the sale of merchandises such as t-shirts (Beech, 2008).

The 2007 tournament held in the West Indies particularly stood out due to its being held in that part of the world and by so many hosting nations – 9 countries (Antigua, Grenada, Barbados, Jamaica, Guyana, St Lucia, St Kitts, St Vincent, and Trinidad) to be particular, with sixteen participating teams (Beech, 2008). Beech (2008, p. 347) also describes the primary purpose of the Barmy Army as “to facilitate support to the English cricket team at Internationals.”

At first glance, the travel services that the Barmy Army provides might not seem as central to their identity as other services but in reality, they are, and it was a major part of their 2007 presence at the ICC World Cup as they were one of the tournament’s 10 Official Travel Agents (OTAs). This arose from the untapped potential and the cricket tourism market gap due to the lack of a travel agency owned or operated by the England and Wales Cricket Board (Beech, 2008).

 

Sport Tourism Industry Challenges – 2007 Cricket World Cup

Major sporting events of this caliber are expected to be faced with challenges that stand in the way of a successful organization and execution, and it’s hard enough running an event in one country, but having to successfully organize an event that extends beyond 9 countries is virtually impossible. One of the questions that came up pretty early on was ‘is it worth it’? The construction of that many stadia, the logistics… is all it worth it? (Beech, 2008).

As you might expect, many of the challenges faced were sport tourism-related. Some of these, as outlined by Beech (2008) were:

  • The fact that the way the event was set up calls for fast movement across multiple republics with no land connection. People would have to move from one country to another by air or by sea to watch the games and sometimes the distances were long.
  • The many variables (i.e. the difference in the national infrastructure, the time difference, the currency difference and sometimes the language difference.) Sport tourists would have to exchange from and to eight different currencies, depending on how far their teams would go, which is a huge inconvenience.
  • Another issue with the way the Cricket World Cup and many other major sporting events are set up is the uncertainty that comes with the possibility of your team (the UK team in this scenario) making it far in the tournament. This may require last minute air travel, sea travel and/or accommodation booking.
  • The length of the event duration also proves to be an issue. Forty-eight days is a long time to be abroad cheering for your team at an event, and that is only if you go to attend the event and not the pre-tournament games.
  • The touristy nature of the Caribbean destinations and the high possibility of hotels being fully booked. As an all-year-round holiday destination, the Caribbean is always filled with tourists who mostly are enthusiastic about the warm weather.
  • The limitation and the many various available options when it comes to flights from the UK. There were not many airlines providing direct flights and the OTAs faced a hard time coordinating flight needs with what is available.
  • The many varying visa requirements of the different republics, although certain facilitations were put in place for international travelers to have easier access.

 

Barmy Army Customers and Market Segmentation

As a business entity, and within their role as one of the Cricket World Cup OTAs, the Barmy Army chose to appeal to their potential customers on the bases presented in Table 1.1, in which all their customers were International Tourists due to their international travel to attend the event, and also constituted true cricket fans. As clearly shown on the table, the market segmentation involved four aspects including: geographic, demographic, behavioral, and psychographic.

True Cricket Fans

Table 1.1: True Cricket Fans

Geographic: segmenting by location, region, urban/rural.

 

Demographic: segmenting by age, gender, occupation, and socio-economic status. Behavioral: segmenting by rate of usage, benefits sought, loyalty status, readiness to purchase Psychographic: Segmenting by personality, lifestyles, and attitudes
UK based English cricket fans* – The Barmy Army catered to the often-ignored lower socio economic bracket by providing economy packages that were still cheaper than those of the competition.

– The general consensus when it comes to the age bracket was that the Barmy Army are the sport tourism equivalent of Club 18-30 (referring to the age bracket (18-30) years), catering to a younger demographic, but they aren’t exclusive to the younger fans.

One of the risks with their particular target market was their eagerness to gain a benefit and lack of readiness to purchase, which put the Barmy Army at a place of vulnerability to the do-it-ourselves group, who often relied on their own research and perception. – Travel in larger groups

– Like the concerts, the parties, the chants and songs.

– Often travel with their girlfriends or wives.

Note. *Although they later licensed their travel and tourism company, that carries the name Bharat Army for Indian cricket fans to carry their services in India.

Source: Adapted from Sato, Gipson, Todd, & Harada (2018); Also see Beech (2008).

 

Although this approach to market segmentation was effective for the Barmy Army, an additional approach could have been adopted namely, socio-economic market segmentation. Granted that it was slightly considered under the demographic segmentation, it was not thorough. This is significant due to the fact that different sports attract different socio-economic classes. Therefore, segmenting by occupation and income, they would be aware of the consumers of cricket and cater to their needs effectively (Hinch & Higham, 2011)

 

Friends of Cricket Fans

The Barmy Army did another thing that gave them a competitive edge on other tour operators, which was to cater to the companions of the fans of cricket that were going to international cricket events (Beech, 2008). The tours organized by Travel and Tour Anywhere Ltd. (a tour operator outsourced and licensed by the Barmy Army) appealed to the not-necessarily female fans of cricket who accompanied their male cricket-fan partners by providing add-on options like parties, barbecues and booze cruises, which proved to be a success (Beech, 2008).

One thing they did not provide to their customers, unlike some of the other bigger OTAs, were providing tourism packages that were mainly about tourism, not cricket for those travelers who were not fanatical in their support of Cricket (Beech, 2008). He adds that the reason for this was that the majority of the Barmy Army fans were committed to the sport itself and fanatical about winning.

 

Recommendation for Future Market Segmentation

From the research in this paper, it is evident that the Barmy Army have a smart business plan and know how to gain and keep their customers over the years. One thing that I believe they should do is broaden their target customers from younger, cricket fanatics that come from lower socio-economic status and extend it to include the older, richer demographic. That might come with opportunities to create tour packages that include activities that are not necessarily cricket or party centered. I believe that this will prove to be a smart move going forward and a lucrative opportunity as well.

 

The Barmy Army evolution

Since the 2007 Cricket World Cup, the Travel and Tours Anywhere Ltd closed their doors and no longer carried out any sport tourism services for the Barmy Army and the Bharat Army (the Indian equivalent of the English Barmy Army). They have since signed a business venture between the Barmy Army and Gullivers Sports Travel, one of the Cricket World Cup OTAs (“Barmy Travel – Come with us!” n.d.b). With that, came growth and they evolved and developed their target market and the type of travel services that they provide. On their Barmy Travel website (which is a separate site from their Barmy Army main website) it says that the Barmy Army Travel isn’t just for the “die-hard cricket fan[s]” but that they now offer ‘an experience’ that goes beyond watching the English team play internationally. With over fifteen years of experience, they claim and promise the opportunity for a hassle free travels around the world with the like-minded members of the Barmy Army (“Barmy Travel – About Us,” n.d.a).

 

Why Go With Barmy?

The Barmy Army website has a section in which they present the FAQs about their travel packages in which they answer many questions, one of which is “why should I book with Barmy Travel? I’ve priced up my tour independently on the internet and there is a difference in price.” (Barmy Army, n.d.c). Their answer to it is because what they will be paying for extends beyond the tangible services and products they’re paying for. Such extensions include great convenience in case of change of arrangements such as a change of venue that might lead to extra cost. Independent travel does not offer such convenience even when one possesses travel insurance. Beyond the community aspect of the experience, Gullivers Sports Travel is a member of Travelopia Group of companies, and are licensed by the Association of British Travel Agents and the Air Travel Organizers’ Licensing, which gives the travelers a peace of mind when it comes to their English cricket centered travel plans.

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

Upon reviewing the case study ‘On Tour With The Barmy Army: A Case Study In Sports Tourism, the challenges that the Barmy Army faced as one of the OTAs for the 2007 ICC world cup are clear. They were, however, aware of the untapped potential in the cricket tourism. Thus, the Barmy Army organized themselves and employed an effective approach to market segmentation. This enabled them to overcome the various challenges and emerge as one of the most competitive OTAs.

 

References

Barmy Travel (n.d.a.). About Us. Retrieved January 27, 2019, from https://barmytravel.com/about

Barmy Travel (n.d.b). Barmy Travel – Come with us! Retrieved January 27, 2019, from

https://www.barmyarmy.com/barmy-travel.html

 

Barmy Travel (n.d.c). Barmy Army v Independent Travel. Retrieved January 27, 2019, from

https://barmytravel.com/clubhouse/barmy-army-v-independent-travel

 

Beech, J. (2008). On tour with the Barmy Army: a case study in sports tourism. International Cases in the Business of Sport, (pp.342-357). Oxford, UK: Elsevier Ltd.

 

Cricket World Cup. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved January 27, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cricket_World_Cup

 

Hinch, T., & Higham, J. (2011). Sport tourism development(Vol. 13, pp.35-59). Bristol, UK: Channel view publications.

 

Sato, S., Gipson, C., Todd, S., & Harada, M. (2018). The relationship between sport tourists’ perceived value and destination loyalty: an experience-use history segmentation approach. Journal of Sport & Tourism22(2), 173-186.

 

Sawe, B. E. (2018, April 5). The most popular sports in the world. Retrieved from https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/what-are-the-most-popular-sports-in-the-world.html

 

Tyson, B., Jordan, L. A., & Truly, D. (2016). A critical socio-economic assessment of the ICC World Cup Cricket on the hosting Caribbean Territories. In Sports Event Management (pp. 45-64). Abingdon-on-Thames, UK: Routledge

 

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